When the crammed sidewalks and packed subway cars get to be too much, get out of town for an outdoor adventure not too far from the city. To really get back to nature, you have to venture at least an hour or two outside NYC. The adrenaline rush from whitewater rafting, rock climbing or snow tubing, combined with the magnificent natural scenery, is enough to make any New Yorker forget about the Big Apple for a few hours. And if you're still not ready to go back to the concrete jungle, book a nearby hotel room to turn any of the day trips below into a relaxing weekend getaway. Queue up the road trip songs!
Spring outdoor adventures
With an ascent of 1,442 feet, this 9.6-mile loop trail will definitely leave you huffing and puffing. Though advanced hikers can certainly tackle it on their own, beginners might want jion a group hike with Xcelerated Adventures or another guide company. Come prepared with sturdy hiking boots and durable clothing—you’ll be scrambling over quite a few rocks along the route.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Rick McCharles
Make the most of sunny days by getting out on the water. Hudson River Community Sailing offers three-hour introductory classes most weekends during the spring and summer to get you started. You’ll learn the difference between port and starboard, what “come about” means and, most importantly, how to steer. Ahoy sailor!
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/rabendeviaregia
This rocky ridge with an unusual name offers unparalleled views of the Hudson River and Bear Mountain Bridge. Of course, the scenery comes at a price: You’ll have to huff and puff your way up 2.8 miles of trail and a 700-foot elevation gain for the photo opp. Though you could certainly go solo, inexperienced hikers might want to join a Vertically Inclined group hike for some expert guidance.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/squirrel83
After climbing up an extremely rocky ridge and meandering along a fairly flat trail for a few miles, you see it: the unexpected (but aptly named) Surprise Lake appearing over a vista. On a clear day, you can even see the teeny-tiny New York City skyline in the distance. The terrain can be tough, but it’s worth it for the incredible views.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/WhatsAllThisThen
Summer outdoor adventures
Adventurers looking to really get their adrenaline pumping will want to book a whitewater rafting trip on the Upper Delaware River. Known for its intense rapids, this section of the river is beloved by thrillseekers. Never fear—that’s why you’re going with an experienced Reber River Trips guide. Prepare to get soaked!
Sure, the first day of this weekend bike excursion ends at a winery, but it’s no joke: You’ll ride 56 miles the first day and 45 the second! Luckily, the paths you’ll follow are relatively flat, so you won’t burn out too quickly. You’ll start at Sandy Hook Beach, and wind your way along the coast before turning west to ride through the countryside of Monmouth County. Once you arrive at Cream Ridge Winery, you’ll enjoy a wine tasting and hot meal before setting up camp for the night in the stunning vineyard.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Jeffrey Beall
Though it’s held at the quaint Old Bethpage Village Restoration on Long Island, this July’s Tough Mudder competition is anything but cute. Competitors will have to power through a 10–12 mile course with more than 20 obstacles, including 10-foot tall walls, channels of icy water and a deranged version of the monkey bars. Don’t think you can handle it? There’s also a Tough Mudder Half that puts you through just 5 miles and 13 obstacles. No biggie, right?
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/thecollectivity
Travel an hour and a half outside of the city to find some peace and quiet on the serene Delaware River. Pick up a paddle and kayak for a few hours on this excursion led by Sourced Adventures. After a picnic lunch, you’ll end the afternoon with a wine tasting at Westfall Winery in New Jersey. That’s one way to soothe your sore muscles.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Jim Pennucci
What’s better than hiking to a 100-foot waterfall? Rappelling down it, of course! Kids, don’t try this at home: You should definitely get some professional supervision from the certified instructors at Northeast Mountain Guiding before you attempt to rappell on your own. Don't get too caught up in the heart-pounding experience to enjoy the scenery, though—it would be a shame to miss the gorgeous surroundings of Catskill Park.
Staying upright on a stand-up paddleboard requires core strength and, of course, balance. Still, it’s much easier for beginners to pick up than you might expect. Start off with just an hourlong rental from Kostal Paddle in Manhasset Bay and see how you fare. Or, if you think you’ll need a more hands-on learning experience, book a lesson to get the lowdown from a local guide.
Looking for a more relaxing day out? Join Northeast Mountain Guiding for a float down the Navesink River on a tube. Bobbing along the serene waters is the perfect way to wash away your cares and worries. And since it’s just an hour outside of the city, it’s the perfect activity if you’re short on time.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/ScubaBear68
Fall outdoor adventures
After the city stopped passenger service on the the Putnam Division of the New York Central Railroad in 1958, the train tracks became a rail trail perfect for cyclists. Bike the northernmost 35 miles of the trail on this day outing with Gotham Bicycle Tours. You’ll start out in Brewster, then bike south under a shady canopy of trees until you reach Captain Lawrence Brewing Company in Elmsford. Sample 10 of their craft beers and raise a glass to the journey before heading back into the city!
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Forsaken Fotos
This 700-acre park in Westchester County was named after William Saxton, an early settler who had a saw mill on the western branch of the Mamaroneck River. Though the park contains an 18-hole golf course, swimming pool and other amenities, a large portion of it remains undeveloped. Meet up with self-described “Wildman” Steve Brill to explore the forested area and forage for wild mushrooms, edible roots and herbs along the way.
In the warmer months, Mountain Creek Resort turns its slopes into a zipline course. Put on a harness, clip onto the line and zoom over a mountaintop lake on this heart-pounding tour. You’ll take in jaw-dropping views of the Tri-State Area as you fly along a series of four ziplines. The day with an off-road ride down the mountain in a Mercedes Unimog truck for even more adrenaline-pumping action.
Don’t learn to climb on some lame indoor course—get out into the wilderness to experience the real deal. New Jersey’s biggest and best multi-pitch climbing area—Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area—is the perfect place for you to put your climbing and belaying skills to the test. Northeast Mountain Guiding only employs experts certified by the Professional Climbing Guide Institute, so you know you’re learning from the best of the best.
Winter outdoor adventures
Okay, so snowshoeing isn't the most death-defying sport you can partake in the snow, but it's pretty intense on the old leg and arm muscles. Or at least it can be. That's the beauty of snowshoeing: you can put in as much or as little effort as you like. After all, it's basically walking. If you're new to the sport, head up with a guide, who will show you how to pick your shoes and teach you the best ways to stride through the chilly white stuff.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Howard Kang
Some parks look dead in the winter, but this 23,000-acre preserve offers dramatic scenery year-round. Minnewaska is known for its lakes and waterfalls that turn into dramatic icescapes when the temperature drops. Hike along 25 miles of footpaths and 35 miles of well-maintained carriage roads. Keep an eye out for guided hikes, such as a three-mile trek with a stop at Awosting Falls, which environmental educator Laura Conner says “looks like a frozen volcano in winter.”
Leave it to the pros to set up a world-class cross-country-skiing destination. This spot was founded by former Olympian Olavi Hirvonen and his wife, Ann. Ski along more than 30 miles of paths through the Adirondack Forest Preserve. You can also try a kicksled—a man-powered vehicle in which one person sits while the other pushes ($20/day).
These rubbery looking contraptions may look like they belong on water more than snow, but trust in the fun about to be had. You'll experience screams of pure joy (and maybe a pinch of terror) as thse tubes hurtle down the slopes – or shoots – of which there are 24, each at 1,000 feet long. No skills required: simply sit and let gravity take its course.
The folks at Alpine Endeavors literally wrote the book on this activity in the area (An Ice Climber’s Guide to the Catskill Mountains). So who better to lead you up the slippery facade of the Shawangunks? Guides will pick you up from the Poughkeepsie Metro-North station, set you up with lunch, and drive you to and from the best ice-climbing spots in the region. They’ll also provide all of the necessary equipment. Beginner? Instruction is included for parties of three or higher.
Is there any kind of cold-weather pastime that Windham Mountain doesn’t have in its Adventure Park? There’s tubing on a 650-foot-long slope ($20–$25); ice-skating on a 120' x 60' rink ($10, skate rental $5); and three-odd miles of trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing at nearby Windham Country Club. For kids, there’s a mini snowmobile park and a Euro Bungy, a hybrid bungee-jump–trampoline. But our favorite has to be the twin zip lines, which allow you to race someone down the 500-foot-long course while you’re 40 feet in the air ($10–$15).